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Ralph E. Luker

Blackwell, Randolph Talmadge (10 March 1927–21 May 1981), attorney, educator, and civil rights activist, was born in Greensboro, North Carolina, the son of Joe Blackwell and Blanche Mary Donnell. He attended the city’s public schools for African-American youth and earned a B.S. in sociology from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical University in Greensboro in 1949. Four years later Blackwell earned a J.D. degree from Howard University in Washington, D.C. In December 1954 he married Elizabeth Knox. The couple had one child. After teaching economics for a year at Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical College in Normal, Alabama, near Huntsville, Blackwell became an associate professor of social sciences at Winston-Salem State Teachers College in North Carolina.

Because of his legal background Wiley Branton the director of the Voter Education Project VEP hired Blackwell as its field director in 1962 Secretly encouraged by the Kennedy administration VEP was launched in ...


Donald Yacovone

lawyer and social activist, was born Jean Camper, the daughter of John E. T. Camper, civil rights activist and physician, and Florine Thompson. She grew up in Baltimore with her sister Elizabeth—she also had two stepbrothers and two stepsisters from her father's first marriage to Louise G. Nixon. The Camper household was a regular meeting place for local NAACP figures and national civil rights leaders, such as Thurgood Marshall and her godfather Paul Robeson. Camper drew inspiration from her father's career as a doctor and a civil rights advocate, but a series of ugly personal incidents soon underscored the need to expand the struggle for racial justice.

Jean's younger brother, John Jr. suffering from a treatable ear infection was refused treatment by Johns Hopkins University hospital because of his race The hospital eventually admitted the boy but only after the infection had spread forcing ...


Kathryn L. Beard

attorney and co-founder of the Michigan Federated Democratic Club (MFDC), was born in British Guiana (Guyana), South America. Little is known about his life prior to his emigration from the colony. Because Craigen grew up near Spanish-speaking countries such as Venezuela, he became bilingual at an early age. During World War I he served in the United States Navy as a Spanish interpreter stationed in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. At the end of the war he migrated to Detroit where he worked in the automobile industry and became active in Marcus Garvey's Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA).

The Detroit UNIA had more than 4 000 members in the 1920s making it one of the largest divisions of the organization As was true for other northern cities where the UNIA had a considerable presence African American migrants from the South comprised much of the rank and file of the organization while ...


Rosetta E. Ross

civil rights attorney and founder of the Children's Defense Fund, was born Marian Wright in Bennettsville, South Carolina, to Arthur Jerome Wright, a Baptist minister, and Maggie Leola Bowen, an active churchwoman. Both parents were community activists who took in relatives and others who could no longer care for themselves, eventually founding a home for the aged that continued to be run by family members in the early twenty-first century. The Wrights also built a playground for black children denied access to white recreational facilities, and nurtured in their own children a sense of responsibility and community service. As soon as Marian and her siblings were old enough to drive, they continued the family tradition of delivering food and coal to the poor, elderly, and sick. Arthur Wright also encouraged his children to read about and to revere influential African Americans like Mary McLeod Bethune and Marian Anderson ...


Luther Brown

activist, lawyer, and businesswoman, was born in Lynch Station, Virginia (near Lynchburg), the eighth of eleven children of Mary Elizabeth Robinson, a domestic, and John Milton Haden, a junk dealer. John Haden was almost totally absent from his children's lives, leaving it to Mary Elizabeth Haden to both rear and educate her progeny. She worked exceptionally hard scrubbing floors and clothes and serving white families to ensure that her children were provided for and received good educations. John Haden often turned to his white father for money allegedly to support the family. But Mabel recounted that her mother made the money to support the family and that her father kept the money from his junk business for himself.

Mabel was named for the white woman president of the boarding school the Allen Home School in Asheville North Carolina that she later attended She was always ...


Benjamin Hooks, who was born in Memphis, Tennessee, graduated from Howard University in 1944 and received a law degree from DePaul University in 1948. He later worked as a public defender and a Baptist minister, serving from 1956 into the mid-1990s as a pastor of Memphis's Middle Baptist Church.

Through his legal and ministerial work Hooks became a prominent figure in the Civil Rights Movement and sat on the board of directors of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) from its founding in 1957 until 1977. In 1965 Hooks became the first African American to become a criminal court judge in Tennessee. He was also the first black to sit on the Federal Communications Commission.

In 1977 Hooks became executive director of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) as well as chairman of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights LCCR A nationally ...


Seth Dowland

minister, judge, and executive director of the NAACP, was born in Memphis, Tennessee, to Robert Britton Hooks, a photographer, and Bessie White Hooks. He was the fifth of seven children. Hooks hailed from one of the most prominent African American families in Memphis; his grandmother Julia Britton Hooks was the first black to attend Berea College. At age sixteen Hooks enrolled at his father's alma mater, Le Moyne College in Memphis, but he was drafted and enlisted in the army before he could complete his degree. After serving from 1943 to 1946 in Italy, Hooks returned to the United States and enrolled at DePaul University Law School. He completed his law degree in 1948 and opened a private practice in Memphis, only the second African American to practice law in the city. Hooks married Frances Dancy, a childhood acquaintance, on 20 March 1951 ...


Lani Guinier

civil rights attorney, activist, and the first female director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund (LDF), was born in the segregated South in Norfolk, Virginia. Her parents were George Raymond Jones, a Pullman porter who, born and raised on a farm in rural Virginia (before women got the right to vote and most blacks were disenfranchised), was unable to complete his early education, and Estelle Campbell Jones, a college-educated school teacher, “who helped Elaine's father develop his reading and writing skills to do all the things he needed to do in order to do well in his position” (Wermiel).

Jones s mother graduated from the Miner Teachers College in Washington D C and for several years she taught at a black elementary school in Capron Virginia a commute of over seventy miles from Norfolk because the city of Norfolk had a prohibition against married women in the classroom ...


Elizabeth K. Davenport

attorney and civic leader, was born in Chicago into an African American family of successful lawyers. Her father, C. Francis Stradford, was a prominent attorney on Chicago's South Side and the founder of the National Bar Association (NBA), which he established in 1925. In 1940 C. Francis Stradford successfully argued the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark case Hansberry v. Lee, which abolished the restrictive covenants that had limited racial integration in Chicago neighborhoods. Her grandfather, J. B. Stradford, was a well-known lawyer in the African American community and the owner of the only black hotel in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Her mother, Aida Arrabella Carter Stradford, was an artist and a homemaker.LaFontant's indoctrination to the legal profession occurred early. As a student at Englewood Public High School in Chicago, she spent the summers working in her father's law office. In the autumn of 1939 she ...


Jewel LaFontant-Mankarious expanded the parameters of tokenism to produce tangible effects for women and African Americans. Often the first woman or African American to hold leadership positions in several arenas, LaFontant-Mankarious challenged discrimination as an activist and lawyer and used her legal acumen and negotiating skills to broker deals in corporate America and the world of Republican politics, all while balancing the often difficult responsibilities of career and family.

Born in Chicago, Illinois, to Cornelius Francis and Aida Carter Stradford, Jewel Carter Stradford was the daughter of an attorney father and artist mother who raised their daughter to believe that unlimited possibilities were available to her. Both her grandfather and her father graduated from Oberlin College in Ohio and entered the legal profession. In 1943 Stradford continued the family tradition when she received a BA from Oberlin, and in 1946 she became the first black woman to ...


Jason Philip Miller

civil rights activist and lawyer, was born in Hot Springs, Arkansas, one of four children born to Lillie Mae Carroll Jackson, a schoolteacher and civil rights icon, and Keiffer Jackson, a traveling salesman for religiously themed films. Because of the peripatetic nature of her father's work, Mitchell traveled the country during much of her childhood. Eventually, the family resettled in Baltimore, Maryland, where Mitchell attended public schools, including Frederick Douglass High School. She was a fine student, and when she graduated in 1927 she did so at the top of her class. She matriculated to Baltimore's Morgan State College but later transferred to the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, where she attended the normal school and graduated in 1931. Continuing on at the school, she took a Master's in Sociology in 1935.

As a young activist Mitchell relied on her mother as a role model ...


Kate Tuttle

By the time Juanita J. Mitchell had received her law degree in 1950, she had already spent nearly twenty years working for civil rights on the local and national levels. Born to racially conscious parents—her mother, Lillie Mae Carroll Jackson, was president of the state conference of NAACP branches—Mitchell earned a degree in education from the University of Pennsylvania in 1931. Upon graduation she returned to her native Baltimore to help African Americans struggling with both the economic devastation of the Great Depression and the persistence of Lynching and other racist violence. Hoping to alleviate some of their suffering, Mitchell founded the City-Wide Young People's Forum of Baltimore in 1931 and served as its president until 1934. In 1935Walter White, then executive secretary of the NAACP, recruited Jackson to head that organization's newly created youth program, a position she held until her 1938 ...


Darlene Clark Hine

First Lady of the United States of America, lawyer, and healthcare executive was born Michelle LaVaughn Robinson in Chicago's South Side to working class parents. Her father, Fraser Robinson III, was a city employee, who worked tending boilers at a water-filtration plant in the city until his death due to complications from multiple sclerosis. Her mother, Marian Shields Robinson, worked as a secretary for the Spiegel catalogue store before becoming a-stay-at-home mother. Michelle's older brother, Craig, born in 1962, would, like his sister, graduate from Princeton University. He later became the head basketball coach at Oregon State University.

As Barack Obama noted in his March 2008 speech on race at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, his wife “carries within her the blood of slaves and slave owners.” And, indeed, genealogical research has revealed that Michelle Obama's earliest known paternal ancestor, her great-great grandfather, Jim Robinson ...


Terri A. Karis

civil rights and antipoverty activist, was born John Anthony Powell in Detroit, Michigan, the sixth of nine children born to Marshall Powell, an autoworker and minister, and Florcie Mae Rimpson, a nurse. Both parents were former sharecroppers. From a young age powell had exceptional abilities and unconventional ways of thinking that challenged his deeply religious family.

At age eleven he decided to leave the church where his father was minister At issue was the church s teaching that all non Christians would go to hell powell was concerned about what this meant for the millions of people who were non Christian Around this same time his great grandmother with whom he had a special bond died as a result of poor medical care Powell s grief was amplified by the sense of exclusion he already felt in his family because of having left the church and his ...


Michael C. Miller

football player, was born Melvin Lacy Elisha Renfro in Houston, Texas. When Mel was four his family moved to Portland, Oregon. He attended Jefferson High School, where he excelled as a football player, playing offense (quarterback and running back), defense (defensive back), and special teams (kick and punt returner). Renfro led Jefferson to thirty-four consecutive victories, including three state championships. The only loss he suffered was the state championship his senior year. He graduated high school in 1960.

Renfro attended Oregon University where he ran track and played football becoming one of the best players in the school s history As in high school he played offense defense and special teams For his career he amassed 1 540 rushing yards averaging 5 5 yards per carry and twenty three touchdowns On defense he played safety and once recorded an astounding twenty one tackles in a game against Ohio ...


James Thomas Jones

activist, author, and founder of TransAfrica. Born in Richmond, Virginia, to Maxie Cleveland Robinson and Doris Robinson, Randall Robinson had an academically inclined and politically aware family. Both his parents were schoolteachers, so his growing up in a household filled with books and ideas is not surprising. All the Robinson children found success: Jewell, the eldest sister, integrated Goucher College and became an actress; Maxie Jr., known as Max, became a news anchor for ABC's World News Tonight, the first African American to anchor a national network-news program; and Jeanie, the youngest, also became an educator. Randall's path to success was not particularly smooth, however. Although in 1959 he earned a basketball scholarship to Norfolk State College, success proved elusive, and he dropped out and was drafted into the army.

Discharged from the army, Robinson enrolled at Virginia Union University and graduated in 1967 ...


Cassandra Veney

lawyer, human rights activist, and founder and president of TransAfrica and TransAfrica Forum, was born in Richmond, Virginia, one of four children of Maxie Cleveland Robinson Sr., a high school history teacher, and Doris Alma Jones, an elementary school teacher. His sister Jewell was the first African American admitted to Goucher College in Maryland, and his brother Max Robinson was the first African American to anchor a national news program. Although both his parents attended college, the family experienced poverty early on, like most African American families living in Richmond at the time. Robinson attended public schools and felt the effects of racism and discrimination as he negotiated his way within the confines of a segregated society.

Following graduation from high school in 1959 Robinson attended Norfolk State College in Virginia on a basketball scholarship but he left the university during his junior year ...


Angela Black

attorney and jurist, was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, one of eight children of Louis Spurlock and Elizabeth A. McGruder. Her father managed a cleaning and dyeing business. Her mother worked from home as a weaver and retail merchant of buckram hat frame switches. Her parents eventually saved enough money to buy a home, which was unusual for urban African Americans in the early twentieth century. Although the Spurlocks were poor, they never lacked food and were always clean and neatly dressed. Everyone, including Spurlock's brothers and sisters, worked to contribute to the household income. During grade school Edith had to quit school and work full-time to help support her family. When finances permitted, she eventually resumed her studies and graduated from Peabody High School.

Spurlock was always a high academic achiever When she graduated from high school her Sunday school teacher helped her get a job with Associated ...


Jaime McLean

Edith Spurlock Sampson was the first black woman to serve as a judge in Illinois and the first African American to be appointed to represent the United States at both the United Nations (UN) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Although her career spanned the globe, she maintained a concern for children’s rights and family welfare. Her commitment to these causes determined the path of her career and defined her professional goals throughout her life.

Sampson was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to Louis and Elizabeth Spurlock Sampson s father worked as a shipping clerk for seventy five dollars a month a sum her mother supplemented by making hat frames and twisting switches of artificial hair Between them Elizabeth and Louis were able to purchase a house and offer a comfortable if not extravagant life for their children Sampson attended Lincoln and Larimer Elementary Schools but took a ...


After graduating from the New York public school system, Franklin Williams acquired a bachelor's degree from Lincoln University and a law degree from Fordham Law School. Following service in World War II, he worked as an assistant to Thurgood Marshall, then assistant counsel to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), until 1950. Williams served as West Coast director of the NAACP until 1959.

After conducting voter registration dinners that helped elect John F. Kennedy president, Williams was selected to head the African branch of the newly created Peace Corps. Part of his job entailed traveling throughout Africa with Peace Corps director Sargent Shriver to plan the organization's future. His experiences in a wide range of foreign nations primed him for a diplomatic post. In 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson appointed Williams to serve on a delegation to the Economic and ...